HOUSTON — Yordan Alvarez smashed a game-ending, three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning off Robbie Ray, wrecking Seattle’s strategy of using a Cy Young Award winner in a rare relief role and vaulting the Houston Astros over the Mariners 8-7 Tuesday in their playoff opener.
Trailing all game after a poor start by Justin Verlander, the AL West champion Astros overtook rookie star Julio Rodríguez and the wild-card Mariners at the end to begin their best-of-five Division Series.
The Astros had been 0-48 in their postseason history when trailing by more than a run after eight innings until Alvarez homered deep into the seats to overcome a 7-5 deficit.
The no-doubt drive was the first walk-off homer in postseason history with a team trailing by multiple runs. And it was just the second walk-off homer with a team down to its final out — the other was Kirk Gibson's startling shot that lifted the Dodgers over the A's in the 1988 World Series opener.
Houston rookie pinch-hitter David Hensley reached with one out in the ninth as Seattle closer Paul Sewald grazed his jersey with a pitch. Sewald struck out Jose Altuve before Jeremy Peña laced a single to center field to chase Sewald.
Mariners manager Scott Servais then made the bold move to bring in Ray, who started Saturday at Toronto in the AL wild-card series, for a lefty vs. lefty matchup with Alvarez. Ray won the Cy Young last year with Toronto, had made only six relief appearances in his career and had never earned a pro save.
A percentage move — or was it?
Alvarez had a .998 OPS against left-handed pitchers this season, by far the highest among qualified left-handed hitters, and 10 home runs. And his batting average against lefties was .321, compared to .299 vs righties.
Alvarez, who hit 37 homers in the regular season, turned around Servais' plan by launching Ray's second pitch into the seats in right field to set off a wild celebration with his Cuban parents in the stands.
The Mariners, back in the playoffs this year for the first time since 2001, were on the wrong end of a big comeback this time after rallying from a seven-run deficit in Game 2 to sweep their wild-card series with Toronto.
The Mariners jumped on Verlander for six runs in just four innings to build a 6-2 lead early. Yuli Gurriel hit a solo homer in the Houston fourth before Eugenio Suarez's solo shot in the seventh extended Seattle's lead to 7-3.
A two-run homer by Alex Bregman off Andrés Muñoz cut the lead to 7-5 in the eighth inning to set up the dramatic finish.
Alvarez had a two-run double in the third to get Houston’s offense going a bit before it really took off in the final two innings.
The Astros, who are trying to reach the ALCS for a sixth straight season, led the AL with 106 wins but looked a bit out of sorts early after a six-day layoff since their last regular-season game.
They got going late to continue their dominance of the Mariners in Houston after going 30-7 against them in the regular season at Minute Maid Park since 2019.
Verlander followed up his remarkable comeback season after missing almost two full seasons after Tommy John surgery with a flop in the worst postseason performance of his storied career.
He led the majors with a 1.75 ERA and topped the AL with 18 wins this season. He dominated the Mariners in the regular season, going 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA in six starts.
Expectations were high for him to build on a regular season that is expected to earn him his third Cy Young award in his first playoff appearance since Game 6 of the 2019 World Series.
Instead, the Mariners hit almost everything he threw in what was his 32nd playoff game. By the time he trudged off the mound mumbling something to himself after just four innings, he’d given up a playoff career-high 10 hits with six earned runs, which tied his most in a postseason game.
In the last four batters, Verlander delivered, in order, a home run, triple, double and single.
Rodríguez tripled, doubled and scored three times and Ty France had three hits.
Rodríguez, who had just one single in the wild-card round, sparked things early as he drew a leadoff walk and advanced to third on a single by France. Cal Raleigh's RBI single quieted a rowdy sellout crowd.
Adam Frazier and Jarred Kelenic hit consecutive singles to start the second. Rodríguez extended the lead to 3-0 when he hit a double into the gap in right-center.
France’s second single of the game came next to send Rodríguez home and leave Seattle up 4-0.
After pitching a clean third inning, Verlander ran into trouble again with two outs in the fourth when Crawford homered on a fastball high to push the lead to 5-2.
Rodriguez followed with a triple to the gap in left field. He lost his batting helmet as he rounded second, and after sliding safely into third, he smiled broadly and yelled, “Let's go!” toward his dugout.
He scored when France doubled to left field to leave Seattle up 6-2.
Eugenio Suarez singled, but France was thrown out at home to end the inning and Verlander’s outing. With his disappointing day done, he got a hug and a pat from manager Dusty Baker after he reached the dugout.
Mariners starter Logan Gilbert yielded five hits and three runs with five strikeouts in his playoff debut.
Astros reliever Phil Maton revealed Tuesday that he broke his right pinkie when he punched a locker in frustration after Houston’s regular-season finale and will miss the postseason.
RELATED: 'It was selfish' | Astros reliever Phil Maton left off ALDS roster after punching locker, breaking finger
Maton had surgery Monday to repair the fractured finger on his pitching hand.
The 29-year-old Maton gave up two hits, including a single to younger brother Nick Maton, and two runs while recording one out in the eighth inning of Houston’s 3-2 win over Philadelphia last Wednesday.
Seattle’s deadline acquisition Luis Castillo, who got the win in the team’s playoff opener, opposes Framber Valdez in Game 2 Thursday in Houston.
Seattle 1, Houston 0
Justin Verlander started for Houston and gave up a walk and two singles, providing Seattle with an early 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Seattle 4, Houston 0
The Mariners plated a few more runs in the second inning thanks to a Julio Rodriguez double and an RBI single from Ty France.
Seattle 4, Houston 2
Yordan Alvarez got the Astros on the board with a two-run double in the third inning, cutting the Mariners' lead to 4-2.
Seattle 6, Houston 2
JP Crawford launched a solo homer in the top of the fourth inning to get a run back for the Mariners.
After a Julio Rodriguez triple, Ty France knocked an RBI double to increase the Mariners' lead.
Seattle 6, Houston 3
Yuli Gurriel led off the home half of the fourth inning with a solo homer to left.
Seattle 7, Houston 3
Eugenio Suarez connected on a solo homer to left to boost the Seattle lead in the seventh inning.
Seattle 7, Houston 5
Alex Bregman crushed a two-run homer to left-center to cut into the Mariners' lead in the eighth inning.
Houston 8, Seattle 7
Yordan Alvarez connected on a three-run walkoff homer to win the game for the Astros.
- 12:27 p.m. | Astros owner Jim Crane previews the 2022 postseason:
- 12:24 p.m. | Astros pitcher Phil Maton discusses his "selfish" actions after being left off the postseason roster:
- 11:32 a.m. | Your Houston Astros starting lineup for Game 1. Jose Altuve leads off against Logan Gilbert and the Mariners.
- 11:29 a.m. | Astros manager Dusty Baker says Framber Valdez will start Game 2 for Houston. Lance McCullers Jr. will start Game 3 in Seattle.
- 11:09 a.m. | Seattle Mariners lineup for Game 1. Rookie Julio Rodriguez will lead off.
- 10:55 a.m. | Reliever Ryan Pressley discusses Justin Verlander's season prior to JV's start for Game 1:
- 10:38 a.m. | Astros announce full ALDS roster:
Everything you need to know
Date: Tuesday, Oct. 11
Time: 2:37 p.m. CT
Location: Minute Maid Park - Houston, Texas
TV Channel: TBS
Live stream: TBS app
Roof status: Closed
Odds: Houston -225; Seattle +185; Over/Under: 6.5 (via Caesers Sportsbook)
Pitching matchup: Justin Verlander (18-4, 1.75 ERA) vs. Logan Gilbert (13-6, 3.20 ERA)
When Justin Verlander takes the mound for the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the AL Division Series on Tuesday against the Seattle Mariners, it will have been almost three years since his last playoff appearance.
Verlander, who missed almost two seasons after Tommy John surgery, will look to build on his remarkable comeback season when he leads Houston into the postseason in the opener of the best-of-five series.
“This crowd here’s always great, especially in the playoffs,” Verlander said. “So hopefully we can feed off that, and just try to continue to pitch like I have all season.”
Verlander’s last postseason appearance came on Oct. 29, 2019, when he allowed five hits and three runs in five innings of a loss to Washington in Game 6 of the World Series. Tuesday will be his 31st playoff start and 32nd appearance in his 20th playoff series.
The Mariners advanced to the ALDS after rallying from a seven-run deficit in Game 2 of the wild-card round to sweep the Blue Jays. That victory was the biggest road comeback win in playoff history and baseball’s largest comeback victory to clinch a postseason series.
“Their lineup is really good,” Verlander said. “They never give in, as you saw in the series against Toronto. They grind out at-bats. They don’t make it easy."
The Mariners will counter with Logan Gilbert, who will make his first postseason start, as they continue their first playoff run since 2001 with ace Luis Castillo unavailable after starting the first game of the wild-card series on Friday.
Gilbert was solid against the Astros in four starts this season, going 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA.